by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
It may have been Mother's Day, but there were plenty of dads, sons, daughters, and grandkids in attendance at the Neil Diamond concert on Sunday evening. In fact, there was a little bit of everybody there, as the legendary crooner drew a huge audience to Key Arena last weekend, a stop on his latest world tour. Yes, at the age of 76, he's still touring the globe, and looking and sounding fantastic, if I do say so myself.
Diamond, on the road promoting his new album Melody Road, began his concert with 'I'm a Believer,' a song he composed himself that has been covered by a multitude of artists from The Monkees to the Four Tops. Wearing black tuxedo pants with a blazer, which he tossed midway through the opening number, and a black shirt with turquoise-colored Western embroidery, he was supported by a full band that included a brass section, two backup singers, and musicians who've toured with him for decades. He was also backed by an illuminated diamond-shaped screen that displayed images during a few songs, such as 'Brooklyn Roads,' dedicated to his mom, who he spoke to by phone on Sunday; she is 97.
'Are you ready to par-tay on this Mother's Day?' he asked a rather festive crowd, many of them women dressed in bejeweled denims, or bejeweled hats, or bejeweled blouses, or anything else sparkly they found in their closet.
'Desiree' was lively and got lots of fans on their feet to sway along with it, while 'Love on the Rocks' was delivered beautifully and delicately with soft lighting and Diamond singing at the foot of the stage. Stunning is a good word to describe 'Hello Again,' an emotional ballad from The Jazz Singer that made some audience members teary-eyed, and Diamond performed 'Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon' at one end of the stage, reaching his hand out to an elderly woman brought forth to greet him.
Some of the set list entries, such as 'Red, Red Wine,' were shortened just a pinch from their original length, though most were played in full. And not only did he sing, but Diamond also took a stab at rapping, while doing his 1972 hit 'Play Me.' He paid tribute to Ben E. King, who passed away recently, by singing 'Spanish Harlem' and also sent get well wishes to Joni Mitchell via a cover of 'Both Sides Now' while playing an acoustic guitar.
Diamond introduced three tracks from Melody Road, 'Nothing But a Heartache,' 'In Better Days,' and 'The Art of Love,' which took him five years to write. 'Forever in Blue Jeans,' 'Cherry, Cherry,' and 'Holly Holy,' really got the crowd moving, shaking their hips and snapping their fingers exuberantly. A rousing version of 'I Am...I Said' capped the main set.
For an encore, the Kennedy Center Honors recipient and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee reeled out five of his very best, beginning with 'Cracklin' Rose,' the great sing-along classic 'Sweet Caroline,' and the pop anthem 'America' that featured pictures of immigrant families coming to the United States projected on the screen at the back of the stage with an image of the American flag at the end. The '80s sentimental favorite 'Heartlight,' inspired by Steven Spielberg's E.T. the Extra Terrestrial, brought the two-hour concert to a close.
Neil Diamond's music spans six decades, and he's been performing it live for just as long. He's such a terrific showman, moving around the stage and swinging his arms and interacting with fans. After all these years, he looks good, sounds incredible, and he still has so much joy and passion for performing. This, by no means, is his farewell tour.
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